Now we're left with the $85 dollar question: How well does this thing actually work? After all, the Chromebit is a neat exercise in gadget economics, a precarious balancing act of price and performance. Thankfully, aside from those initial setup headaches, the Chromebit's low-end silicon keeps up better than you'd think. Firing up tabs and paging through endless Wikipedia articles is sort of Chrome's specialty, so straight web browsing won't be an issue. And Chrome OS has matured dramatically since its early days: I spent a few hours sifting through a Murakami novel in Amazon's Kindle web app, and followed it up with rearranging appointments in Sunrise (a Microsoft service!). I also spent time managing assignments in Trello and making god-awful "music" with Audio Sauna. The Chromebit's power and value isn't actually tied to the gadget itself, but more to the experiences it enables, and indeed, there's plenty you can do.
Of course, it helps if you're doing all these things sequentially and not in parallel. This very modest hardware means you can't just use Chrome all willy-nilly like you would on a conventional desktop. Consider my normal work setup. I'll usually have Netflix playing something in the background while I'm pecking out a story in Google Docs or triaging messages in Slack. For the most part, the Chromebit kept up with my workflow, but it'd sometimes lock up and make the television it was connected to reacquire the signal. I could always tell when this was coming, too; The Chromebit would stop accepting inputs from the keyboard or mouse. I'm not sure if this is Netflix's fault or ASUS's, but whatever: You'll have to be judicious in how you use this thing.
If you're looking at the Chromebit as a streamer or set-top box replacement... you probably shouldn't. Yes, you can run Netflix and Spotify in Chrome tabs, but they'll never run quite as smoothly as you want them to. (The latter especially; Spotify web playback really kind of sucks.) Google devotees can pick up a base model NVIDIA Shield TV for an extra $115 and get so much more power for ultra high-def video and gaming, while those on tighter budgets could probably ferret out a deal on a Nexus Player even after Google dropped it from its hardware store.
It's worth pointing out that Chrome OS doesn't exactly thrive on the big screen, especially when you're seated on a couch a few feet away from your television. The Chromebit dutifully offered up different resolution choices (all topping out at 1080p for me) but I usually had to dial the detail down to 720p if I wanted to look for Spring Awakening tickets from my loveseat. Chrome OS was never really designed to be a lean-back experience, so it's no surprise it shines a little brighter on a smaller monitor a foot from your face. I could totally see school districts buying these things in bulk and pairing them with cheap surplus displays -- just hook them up with Google Classroom and you've got a connected school without dropping loads of cash.
Ultimately, Chrome OS's limitations actually work to the Chromebit's advantage. Remember Intel's Compute Stick? Its 1.3GHz Atom processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage put that pocket PC in the same general territory as the Chromebit, but it struggled when we tried to use the thing as anything more than a basic productivity tool. If the Compute Stick was a disappointment, it was because offered a sense of promise and potential that it just wasn't equipped to deliver. Not so with the humble Chromebit. It's not perfect, but it under-promises while managing to over-deliver.
If all you want is to fire off occasional emails, watch YouTube videos and peck out memoirs in Google Docs, you'll be pleased with the Chromebit's capabilities. It's all vaguely reminiscent of WebTV, that failed Microsoft endeavor to bring the internet to television sets normal people already own, except there's an elegance here that should make the Chromebit even more alluring to people with modest 'net needs. Hell, I'm thinking of buying a couple for my parents so I don't need to endure weekly catch-up calls about how confusing they find Windows 10.
There's something intriguing about the Chromebit. It's not terribly fast, nor is it always elegant in its execution. Then again, it's a perfectly serviceable way to access your email, music and nearly everything the web has to offer, mostly using gear you probably already have. Chrome OS has matured over the years, and it's never been more accessible. Still, you have to approach it with the right expectations. It's not the most capable streamer. And like most other Chrome OS machines, the Chromebit won't replace a desktop or laptop with heavier-duty hardware and a more fully featured OS. That said, while I haven't been a Chrome OS user for long, the fact that I can handle much of my daily routine on a candy bar-sized hunk of plastic is kind of exciting. Power users should probably stay away, but there's just enough functionaity here for students and tinkerers alike to walk away satisfied.